CJHL announces its 2017-18 Top Defenceman Award finalists

CALGARY, Alta. – The Canadian Junior Hockey League announced Thursday the finalists for its Top Defenceman Award during the 2017-18 campaign.

Each of the finalists were determined through balloting by each of the CJHL’s 10-member leagues for their respective efforts during the course of the regular season.

Listed alphabetically, by league, are the five nominees for the CJHL’s Top Defenceman Award:

Jacob Bernard-Docker, Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)

BIO: Was the AJHL recipient of the W.G. (Bill) Scott Memorial Trophy as the 2017-2018 Outstanding Defenceman, which is given annually to the defensive player who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position. Was the CJHL’s highest-rated 2018 NHL Draft prospect in Central Scouting’s final rankings, being tabbed 33rd overall among North American Skaters.  He won a gold medal as a member of Team Canada West at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge in December.  He was also selected to represent the AJHL in the CJHL Prospects Game in January 2018.  Bernard-Docker scored 20 goals and added 20 assists in his second season as an Oiler and was tied for sixth among all AJHL defencemen in scoring. Selected as a Viterra AJHL Star of the Game seven times for the Oilers. The native of Canmore, Alta., was also a finalist for the 2017-18 Most Dedicated Player Award. The 17-year-old has committed to the NCAA Division I University of North Dakota.

Cooper Zech, Wenatchee Wild (BCHL)

BIO: Despite being five-foot-nine and 155 pounds, Zech was a huge force in the BCHL this season as he dominated the competition from the blueline. The league took notice as the diminutive offensive defenceman was named the league’s top blueliner at the end of the year. Zech finished fourth overall in BCHL scoring and 13 points ahead of the nearest defenceman with 69 points in 58 games and his 58 assists were also the most in the league this season. The native of South Lyon, Mich., had the second-longest point streak by a defenceman this year with points in eight straight games from Dec. 1 to 29. Zech’s highlights this season include two four-assist games, on Sept. 29 against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Feb. 3 against the Langley Rivermen. After a highly-successful initial campaign in the BCHL, the 19-year-old has committed to Ferris State University for next season.

Tim Theocharidis, Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL)

BIO: The Bowling Green State NCAA D-I commit led the CCHL in points among blueliners with 58 and finished second in goals with 17. He is a leader on and off the ice for a deep Carleton Place squad. He quarterbacked the power play and also acted as a top penalty killer. Theocharidis also represented Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge where he had three points on one goal and two assists in four games.

Matthew Kellenberger, Oakville Blades (OJHL)

BIO: Ranked 175th among North American skaters in the final NHL Draft Rankings, Kellenberger was named OJHL Defenceman of the Year in 2017-18. The 19-year-old nearly doubled his points total in his second full season in the league, scoring 12 times and assisting on 39 others. His 51 points were second highest for all OJHL defencemen. He’ll study engineering and play NCAA Division 1 hockey at Princeton University. Attended the Vancouver Canucks prospects camp last summer. Stayed busy this winter teaching power skating five days a week and tutoring math, science and French to Grade 9 and 10 students in his neighbourhood. Graduated from St. Michael’s with an 88% average. Was chosen to play in the past two CJHL Prospects Game. Earned Team East player of the game in 2017.

Josh McDougall, Nipawin Hawks (SJHL)

BIO: McDougall rose to the top of the talented group of SJHL defencemen. The 19-year-old Prince Albert product more than doubled his output from his rookie campaign as he led the Nipawin Hawks in scoring with 17 goals and 55 assists, which also topped all league D-men. McDougall was named the SJHL’s IBAS Top Defenceman of the Year. The selection is another major accomplishment for the talented blueliner as earlier this year he committed to play with the NCAA Division 1 Mercyhurst next season in addition to participating in the inaugural SJHL/MJHL Showcase in Regina in mid-January. McDougall, was named to the SJHL’s all-rookie team a year ago when he had 30 points in 53 games. Was used in all situations with the Hawks as 12 of his goals have come while the team is on the power-play and two of his assists have been on short-handed markers. McDougall has also netted four game-winning tallies during his impressive season. It is the third straight year that McDougall has claimed a major honour as prior to joining the Hawks he was selected to the first-team all-star squad in his final season of AAA midget hockey with the Tisdale Trojans.

Earning honourable mention for the CJHL Top Defenceman Award were: Samuel Hould, Cobras de Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ); Mitchell Kreis, Miramichi Timberwolves (MHL); Darby Gula, Steinbach Pistons (MJHL); Connor Lovie, Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) & Cory Dennis, Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL).

The CJHL Top Forward Award recipient will be announced in the coming days.

Also of note, the finalists for the CJHL Coach of the Year will be named at a later date while the RBC Hockey Canada/CJHL Player of the Year and the RBC Scholastic Player of the Year will be presented at the RBC Cup Awards Banquet, May 10, in Chilliwack, B.C.